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From: "Robert Borski" 
Subject: (urth) Base 9 on the Whorl?
Date: Sat, 11 May 2002 13:07:43 -0500

In _Nightside the Long Sun_, on p. 29, Wolfe has Maytera Marble presiding
over a mathematics lesson, "watching the children take nineteen from
twenty-nine and get nine, add seven and seventeen and get twenty-three."
This, however, is only possible in a base 9 numbering system, and a strange
one at that, since a conventional base 9 system would only include the
digits 0 to 8 (there should thus no 9, 19, or 29).

The following questions therefore ensue:

Since the number 9 is present, are we to assume that one of the other
numbers has been retired? (If so, it's not evidenced in the Seal of Pas,
which contains all ten digits from 0 - 9. But could these sequences be
artifacts of the pre-launch numbering system?)

Equally possible, I suppose, is the notion that the Whorl, like the ancient
Romans, uses no 0 --meaning that the sequence after the first and second
enneads runs ...8, 9, 11, 12... and 18, 19, 21, 22. But can this be
supported by text citings: i.e., do the numbers 10, 20, 30, etc., occur
anywhere in the narrative?

Also, if we accept the validity of the base 9 system (doubtless enacted by
the Whorl gods to reinforce their sanctity, just as Pas's children have
co-opted the days of the week), how does this change the facts, figures and
chronology of the Long and Short Sun books--from ages of the characters to
lengths of the year--or even, say, the hypothetical distance between Blue
and Green at apogee and perigee?

Robert Borski


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